All Over the Internet

One of my clients depends on online sales -- they have no external sales force and do almost no print advertising. In addition to google ad words and a little bit of online banner advertising, they actively maintain a presence, as individuals and as a company, on:

Google Profile

And these are just the sites I know about.  They also have multiple websites, with urls and landing pages that are distinct for each of their major markets. Keeping their content fresh on all these channels is a full time job for their marketing department.

Apparently it is worth it the effort as their business keeps growing.  How about yours?

LinkedIn Today: The next big social tool?

LinkedIn announced the launch of LinkedIn Today last week, their new daily digital newspaper. It's still too soon to say for sure, but I predict this will quickly become one of the major tools for social media marketing.

In a nutshell, LinkedIn Today is a cross between a news aggregator and a social bookmarking site. It brings you the top daily stories from selected categories (and recommends new categories based on user profiles); more importantly for our purposes, it draws those stories from articles shared by your contacts.

Suppose you connect with me on LinkedIn. If I share an interesting article about QR codes it will show up on your LinkedIn Today page. Since I work in the construction and marketing industries, it could also show up on the page of anyone interested in those industries. If they read the article and share it with their contacts, it will spread even further. And if, several iterations down the line, someone wants to know who originally posted this article, they can view its history and all the conversations happening about it.

Which means you want articles about your company and products appearing there. Best way to make that happen? Get active on LinkedIn yourself, and be sure you have a "Share on LinkedIn" button on all your posts, articles, and webpages.

Social bookmarking sites, such as Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, never really caught on for business use. The content on those sites tends to be decidedly NSFW (Not Safe For Work), so they never built a critical mass of professional users. LinkedIn, by contrast, is starting with that critical mass. Architects are already gathering to discuss the latest building products and get their questions answered, which means they are very likely to share interesting articles, and read those shared by their contacts.

I will be experimenting with the system in the coming days and share my observations. When you start using it, let me know about your experiences, and share any interesting lessons learned.

Social Media and the Paradox of Choice

On the way to work this morning I was listening to a 2008 episode of Radio Lab about choice. The lead story had Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, discussing that for most people decision-making capability drops sharply when they are confronted by more than seven options. Listening to him as I walked, I realized this could also explain one of the major obstacles to social media adoption: there are too many channels for businesses to make effective decisions about which to use. And if there are too many options for businesses, what is that doing to our customers?

The answer is not to limit choice, but to sharpen focus.
A new client recently asked me what I considered "essential social media" for a B2B company. Off the top of my head, I listed (in no particular order):
  • Blog
  • Twitter stream
  • Facebook fan page
  • LinkedIn profile for key executives and company
  • Email newsletter
  • YouTube channel
  • Online photo gallery
  • Website optimization
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Mobile landing page
...and then I paused to take a breath. Is it any wonder my client felt overwhelmed? Seeing the panic on his face, I considered the list and refocused. The first thing we did was narrow the list down by combining similar items:
  1. Website overhaul (which includes blog, mobile page, and SEO review)
  2. Online media gallery
  3. Social networking
  4. Email marketing
  5. Online brand monitoring
Suddenly we had a manageable list.  Sure, creating an "online media gallery strategy" takes more work than starting a YouTube channel, but it made it easier to see the full picture and start our next step: prioritizing.

We began with goal setting; what was the purpose of this online campaign? The client's experience showed that their existing sales network was very effective; the major needs were brand awareness, education, and maintaining customer loyalty. That suggested a single technology to me: email newsletters.

E-newsletters can be very effective at keeping your brand top-of-mind for both new prospects, who need education and awareness, and existing customers, who are reminded of past positive experiences. With the right set-up it is even easy to send multiple versions of your newsletter at once, each customized for a particular audience. Better yet, all of the other online options we discussed suddenly became part of a single project by contributing content to the newsletter, building awareness of it, and building a subscriber base.

It is also important to remember that no company can be successful in every social media venue, so it is always acceptable - encouraged even - to pick the few you want to focus on and ignore the rest. Redesigning the social media mix is fairly simple, so there is little opportunity cost involved. Still, this experience with my client was a good example of how asking the right questions and focusing on goals can change a seemingly impossible list of options into a single manageable project.

Are Digital Natives Media Savvy?

No, says a new study from Northwestern University. In fact, they seem more impressed by a site's search ranking on Google than by pesky details like who wrote it, is it an unbiased source, or is it useful information. From the study's abstract:
We find that the process by which users arrive at a site is an important component of how they judge the final destination. In particular, search context, branding and routines, and a reliance on those in one’s networks play important roles in online information-seeking and evaluation. We also discuss that users differ considerably in their skills when it comes to judging online content credibility.
This is important for construction product marketing in three ways.

First, it's another nail in the coffin for the "digital natives" meme. I dislike the term because it seems like a dressed up modern version of the "Those kids and their darn toys!" mentality. Not every Baby Boomer grew up to be a TV producer, so why assume every Millennial knows HTML and Java? Even worse, it becomes a hand-washing pass phrase that many use to absolve themselves of responsibility for understanding the latest digital technologies. It's possible that the net, email, and social media have little resonance with your target market segment, but that's more a reflection of the audience you serve than their age; odds are good that will still remain true even years after the "digital natives" take over the industry, and their habits will only transform because you offer them good, useful tools online.

Secondly, it underscores the importance of search in modern marketing campaigns. I did a search recently on a new client's company name, and they came up on the bottom of the first page. Beneath two university groups, an indie punk band, and some guy on LinkedIn with the same name. A search for their product category name did not include them at all. It is no coincidence their website traffic was way below target. Increasingly, people use Google as their first stop when looking for new products, inspiration, or help solving technical problems. Your webpresence needs to anticipate and facilitate searchability.

Finally, it is a reminder to be initially skeptical of anything you read online (including this blog, by the way; we occasionally make mistakes or show bias too). On the other side, as content producers it means we must be careful to act in a trustworthy, responsible manner. Sites that give bad information don't stay high in the rankings for long; they may claim the top spot for a few weeks, but then get burned by the wave of negative feedback and backlash. Providing consistently high-quality information may take longer to get results, but they will be more stable in the long run.

H/T ReadWriteWeb for the tip.

Social Media tips from Joy Davis, CSI

Joy Davis, CSI recently presented the following slide show about social media at the Construct 2010 convention in Philadelphia.  Look for our newsletter on slide 19.

Follow Joy at CSIConstruction (Twitter), LinkedIn or Facebook 
Read CSI's blog here.

Are Trade Show Dynamics Changing?

Are trade shows dying or not? CSI’s Product Representation Practice Group took up this question in a recent meeting. Their answer seemed to be, “maybe.” Trade shows will fail if they don’t adjust to today’s audience and leverage the thing they do best: face-to-face contact with a rep and a product.

Practice group members agreed that there’s no shortage of trade shows right now, so they choose their venues carefully. “We could attend a trade show just about every day,” said Practice Group leader Alana Grifith, FCSI, Lifetime Member, CCPR.Hear a recording of this meeting.

Reasons for going to a trade show, even in this economy, include:
  • Checking out the competition: Where else will you get a guided tour of the other guy’s product?
  • It’d be noticeable if we weren’t there: Part of maintaining a reputation in the industry is being seen in a well-appointed booth.
  • A tradeshow is a big trip that replaces a lot of small trips: You can see contacts in one visit instead of booking a series of trips to an area, which makes it a greener, cheaper choice.
  • Leads, leads, leads: Any opportunity to shake a hand and meet a potential client is valuable.
But the big reason to attend a construction industry trade show, whether it’s a national event or a local table-top display, is touch. The web may provide reams of data about a product, but construction people prefer to touch a material and understand it with their fingers as well as their minds.

“There’s an intangible but very real difference between a relationship formed over the phone and one established in person, and definitely between a gadget you’ve only seen pictures of and one you’ve held in your hands,” according to a blog entry Griffith quoted. “(People) will understand things in a tactile way by using all five sense that they may not have understood by using only one or two.”

"If you're in more of a textile business, how do you do it if you're not going to a traditional tradeshow?” one participant asked. “They figure they can Google the word 'dry wall' -- but it doesn't mean those products are available, or available for through distributors you trust."

"This is a tactile industry,” Stirling Morris, CSI, CDT, said. “There's a lot of great information on line, but trade shows won't go the way of the dinosaurs for construction."

"Is the next trend in trade shows to be bigger & better?” Griffith said. “It really could shape our industry."

The challenge for product reps is to understand how the value of a trade show is shifting, and to adjust their goals for an event accordingly. Although LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking platforms have made it easier to stay in touch (as have cell phones and laptops), trade shows still have the advantage when it comes to eye contact and handshakes.

If a rep can make the booth work smoothly with the company website, it’s even better. Products with comprehensive websites and responsive, knowledgeable product reps get spec’d, Griffith said.

"A lot of it comes down to how we expect to resource information,” a rep said. “I've got offices with architects who don't want literature anymore. How do we show value to these people face-to-face?"

“We need to identify with a new audience,” Griffith said. “They don’t want the same old trade show experience.”

Several group members reported they still expect to generate leads at a trade show.

"When I'm in my booth, I usually get quite a few,” one rep said. “There's always people there I haven't met."

Generating the right kind of leads can be tricky. A gimmick, such as a prize-drawing, may draw attention, but the people dropping their cards in the fish bowl who aren’t potential clients are getting between the rep and a person who could be.

One rep reported that she now produces cheaper versions of her literature so that she has something to hand to someone who is not a good lead, but who wants the material.

Reps also have to be prepped for booth work. They need to know:
  • How to engage: "A lot of people aren't stepping out and engaging the professionals,” a designer said. "I can hit four or five rows before someone says something to me."
  • How to focus: Chatting on cell phones and with the guy in the next booth can keep a rep from talking to a genuine lead.
  • How to eat: Don’t eat in the booth if you can help it. Schedule breaks for booth staff.
  • How to behave: "It's our job as professionals to be warm and friendly and to communicate about our products,” a participant said.
  • Where to put the furniture: A booth should always feel open. Setting a table at the front for you to stand behind just makes it harder for traffic to wander in and out.
  • How to set the stage: Use giant, beautiful images of the product; looping videos of real construction projects; samples that lift, swing, open and shut; education sessions and demonstrations that answer questions; and booths made out of the product. A California caller recalled a company that sold security doors, and kept a steel door in the booth that had been shot with various weapons to prove their point. "That was the only thing in their booth, and it showed what different weapons do to their product. I can still remember it years later."
"It's like being in a storefront window, and you're the mannequin,” Griffith said. “If you're inattentive or not zoning in on what they're looking for, that's pretty bad branding for what you pay for a trade show."

Morris recommended holding a meeting of the reps that will be in the booth to discuss how to effectively work the booth. Exhibit organizers can help, too, by holding a meeting of all the exhibitors to discuss booth do’s and don’ts.

"You can do a lot in a booth if it's done well,” Griffith said. “It's all in how you display your product and how you engage the traffic that's walking by."

The Product Representation Practice Group’s next meeting will be April 12.

Got an idea for a session? Send it to CSI Education Manager Erica Cox at

CSI’s Product Representation Practice Group is a community for people working in product representation, whether they represent one manufacturer or several. The group also welcomes any design professional, specifier, or others to join us if they have an interest in these issues. Join the group! It’s free!

CSI is now planning the 2011 Product Representative Academy, to be held in Dallas in February. If you’re interested in the PRA, join the Product Representation Practice Group to make sure you’re getting the scoop about this event.

Chusid Associates will be speaking on trade shows at Construct 2010.

View our
archived article on trade shows.

*This article was reposted from*

Ask for Testimonials (We Did!)

Testimonials from satisfied clients can play an important role in building product marketing. Plus, they feel really good to get.

While testimonials sometimes appear in the mail unsolicited, the best way is to ask for them.

Asking for testimonials has been honed to a high art by LinkedIn. After signing into your account, go to the LinkedIn "Profile" tab, click on "Recommendations," select "Request Recommendations," and use the social media platform to reach out to your contacts to ask for recommendations.

Most of your contacts will be happy to give you a recommendation; doing so enhances their relationship with you, and increases their visibility in the social media platform. (Of course, they might ask for an endorsement in return. Give it to them; it increases your visibility)

Here, for example, is an endorsement I received through LinkIn:
“Michael and I worked on a technology transfer program for a mutual client in the building materials area, with great results. Michael is an inventive individual, with out-of-the-box ideas that get the job done in creative ways.” Raymond Hemmings, Founder and President, Hemmings & Associates, LLC
Old fashioned, face-to-face networking also works. For example, a client recently told me how pleased he was with the work Chusid Associates had done for his business. I thanked him for his compliment, then asked if he would be willing to put his sentiments into a letter I could use. Here is what he sent:
"Chusid Associates made critical contributions to successfully bringing Lythic Solutions to the marketplace. With their knowledge of our industry niche, they worked to helped shape our message and make a conceptual strategy for branding.  Their PR articles in trade publications generated contacts from specifiers and contractors from around the world and led to sales.  The Chusid Team’s ability to produce effective marketing literature and collateral sales materials, based on our knowledge and advanced technology products, leveraged us into market prominence quickly and with credibility.  Collaboration with Chusid Associates has made it possible for Lythic Solutions to build its brand, on an international scale, in a faster time frame than we had anticipated before finding them." Brad Sleeper, General Manager, Lythic Solutions.
I have tried to demonstrate in this post that testimonials work best if they are shared publicly. Make sure the writer has given you permission to use his or her name, then place the testimonials on your website or work them into your advertising.

And be sure to pass the favorable comments along to the employees, reps, and other team members that helped build and maintain the client relationship.

The True Benefits of "Non-proprietary" Articles

The latest e-newsletter from American School & Hospital Facility has an article titled "The True Benefits of Cleaning "Green"".
Cleaning institutional buildings poses many challenges for facility managers. In education and health care buildings, mangers must find safe and effective cleaning solutions, sensitive to the volatile health of their occupants. At the forefront of most managers’ cleaning agendas are needs to improve indoor air quality (IAQ), improve the health of buildings and the people who visit them, and reduce the negative impact to the environment both in the building and beyond. These are demanding objectives for any facility manager and are especially tough today for many who are faced with shrinking budgets. In these unique environments, managers must be armed with cleaners that are:

• Affordable and meet their budget requirements;
• Effective at removing a multitude of stains and dirt;
• Agreeable to their building’s IAQ and the environment.
Good start; sounds promising. Especially since the newsletter itself opened by talking about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). As I read further, the article quickly came to focus on green cleaning as it applies to carpets. All the specific examples pointed to carpets. The case study discussed carpets. Even the section on reducing injuries discussed only injuries obtained by cleaning and changing carpets.

Looking at the end of the article, I was not surprised to see the piece was written by someone from a carpet cleaner manufacturer, XL North.

Let me be clear: I have no problem with this. Some people are distrustful of what they see as "insider articles", but I find them to be useful, as long as any potential author bias is made clear. Consider: cleaning carpets in an environmentally conscious way is an important issue. I would assume someone who produces carpet cleaning products can speak on the issue with expertise. I see no reason to doubt his facts and figures (although one study mentioned without citation seems a bit too good to be true). Important topic, expert writer, good information; sounds like a good article to me!

So this article is helpful to me as a reader, but how is it good for the company sponsoring it? Several reasons:

1. Viral marketing. They wrote an article, it got emailed to thousands of readers, I reposted the link, exposing it to new readers. Soon it will go onto my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles, get listed on Digg and Readit, and if even one person likes my article enough to repost it, the whole cycle starts again, bringing a whole new set of eyes to the magazine, the article, and the company. Meanwhile, all these links, mentions of the company name, etc. help raise the company's SEO score.

2. Expertise. A large part of successful marketing in the communication age is convincing prospects you are the one that can help them solve their problems. The internet has brought that to a personal level as well, which is why so many CEO's have their own blogs and Twitter accounts. Placing non-proprietary articles in respected periodicals demonstrates how much you and your company know about the topic.

3. Setting the Terms of Debate. This is an important but often overlooked benefit. Non-proprietary articles allow me to define the important issues in the way that is most beneficial to my company and my products. Done well, this means you determine the questions prospects ask your competitor.

I do have one qualm with this article; it is important that a non-proprietary article provides what it promises, and I think the title and introduction promise more than the article provides. If this were a seminar at a trade show, I would be disappointed by the exclusive focus on carpets when what I wanted was IAQ. This would be a stronger article if the title used the word "carpet". It would still be useful and interesting, but I would not walk away feeling something was missing.

Twitter's TOS: Who Owns Your Tweets?

Twitter announced updates to its Terms of Service last week, throwing additional fuel on an already heated debate: who owns the content you post online? The seemingly obvious answer, the user-creator is owner, may not be the case. For example, your tweets can be used for:
  • Data for an API
  • Retweets
  • Display on someone else's website
  • Quotation, with or without attribution
All of these are ways for someone else to profit from your writing, without the benefit ever reaching you. To further obscure the issue, the new TOS includes this:
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
Within a single paragraph, ownership is granted to the user-creator while usage is granted to Twitter. WebProNews quotes one user as saying, "If Twitter can do what they want with ‘our’ tweets, including reproduction for their own (financial) gain, what do we actually 'own'?"

The issue has come up from the other side as well, notably the recent "Facebook Murder" case and various cyber-bullying trials. Here the question is what responsibility does Facebook bear for the content posted by users? Combined, these questions of ownership and responsibility mean that most social networks and other online services gain the benefit but not the liability for all user-generated content.

This mirrors the debate about liability in BIM (read the comments from this BD+C post about mandatory BIM in Texas); everyone wants credit for their work on the project, but no one wants liability for bad information, faulty design, or whatever other problems might occur. Furthermore, once a model is designed, who owns the information?

In light of these issues, how can building product manufacturers protect themselves and their information?

The first key step is to be sure that any information posted online is technically accurate: guide specs, BIM models, CAD details, technical literature, MSDS, etc. should be reviewed carefully, preferably by a third-party architect, engineer, or other technical specialist. This may require a material testing program to get independent confirmation of the qualities claimed, especially for life-safety issues such as surface burning characteristics.

Secondly, refer people to the company website wherever possible. Twitter makes this easy; it's hard to fit extensive product detail into 140 characters or less, so tweets usually redirect users to the full article elsewhere. On blogs and networks like LinkedIn, however, there can be a temptation to post full-text of data sheets. Avoid this impulse; link to the appropriate page on the website instead. That way users will always find the most current information, and the issue of content-ownership is diminished. If Twitter or another network claims usage rights, all they have to use is a tweet saying "For more information, visit....".

The issue of content ownership is going to evolve rapidly over the next few years. Lawsuits are already testing the issue. Until a clear path emerges, the best way for manufacturers to protect themselves is focusing on these fundamentals.

Protect Your Information

Data security is very important in the construction industry. Whether it's details about new product research, prospect mailing lists, or building plans, a leaked document can expose manufacturers to liability issues and give competitors an advantage. How do companies make the decision about what information to post online, whether on the company webpage or a social network? My simple guide to online security is this: if you put it online it's not secure. Put differently, don't post anything online unless you're comfortable seeing it on the evening news tomorrow.

A slightly overprotective maxim along the lines of Murphy's Law, to be sure, but every year we hear about banks, government agencies, and online networks having major data leaks, exposing millions of users' confidential information.

This morning's story is that Facebook changed its global privacy policy to comply with Canadian standards.

"Last month the social network was found to breach Canadian law by holding on to users' personal data indefinitely...Facebook has now agreed to make changes to the way it handles this information and be more transparent about what data it collects and why...Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public policy at Facebook, said he believed the new policies set "a new standard for the industry"."

Changes will occur over the next 12 months, but meanwhile almost one third of Canada's population is not getting the level of security they thought the government ensured. As more and more businesses start posting company profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, it is important to be aware of these issues.

This is not to say companies should avoid social networks; on the contrary, they can be a powerful tool for reaching and building relationships with your clients. We've always taught that relationship selling is the key to reaching specifiers, and social networks take the concept to the next level. The key is responsible management of the company's online presence.

Social Media and Branding

How Firms Use Social Networking
Key findings from a survey of Society for Marketing Professional Services members (from design and contracting firms) found that:
  • Individuals who use social networking face confusion both about how to use the tools and how to measure success.
  • Respondents confused electronic social networking with going to conferences or other offline networking events.
  • Media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter were being used primarily for marketing individual professionals (62%), firms (50%), and employee recruitment (20%).
Significantly, the sponsors found that, “Our study is already out of date,” due to the rate of growth of social media.

The following example, cited by ENR, indicates that some in the construction industry have already made a significant commitment to social media. HOK is on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Delicious and VisualCV, and has four corporate communications staffers managing its social media sites plus 30 staff worldwide blogging on A spokesman for the firm says social media already has helped HOK win some business.

CSI Web Users Group on LinkedIn

Aaron Chusid, a Director at Chusid Associates, is now a manager for the CSI Web Users Group on LinkedIn. The group was founded for Construction Specifications Institute members to discuss applications for online media in the construction industry, ask questions, get tips, and improve their professional use of social media.

We are looking for participants at all levels of net savvy; new users to ask the questions and experienced users to help answer them.

The use, by trade organizations, of social media such as LinkedIn is further evidence of the growing importance of new media to the construction industry.

Social Media in Building Product Marketing

New communication and collaboration tools can increase the reach and effectiveness of your sales and marketing, reduce the environmental impact of sales calls and help control cost of sales.

Consultants from Chusid Associates recently presented a seminar on the topic for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute. Presenters included: Michael Chusid, FCSI, RA and Aaron Chusid, CSI. Aaron is a specialist in communications and Michael has authored numerous articles on building products and construction.

Among the topics discussed were:
  1. Social networking sites (LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, etc.)
  2. Twitter
  3. Email blasts
  4. Blogs
  5. Building information modeling (BIM)
  6. Desktop-to-desktop video conferencing
  7. Cell phone internet
The program is available for presentation to Building Product Manufacturers, Trade Association, and Professional Societies.

Copies of the handouts are available by contacting